Don't forget to pack one of these 20 summer reads before you leave for vacation

by Kristine Cannon
May 6, 2016 at 11:27 a.m. ET

No summer is complete without getting lost in the pages of a new adventure. From international dramas and enduring love stories to revealing memoirs that capture the depth and fortitude of the human spirit, our latest book guide will make this summer one of the most literally satisfying yet. Here are 20 unforgettable novels to add to your summer tote bag.

1 /21: 'A House For Happy Mothers'

1/21 :'A House For Happy Mothers'

Two women from two different worlds are brought together in this touching and witty tale of India's booming surrogacy industry. Priya has the ideal life in Silicon Valley — the handsome husband, an incredible career and lavish home — but there is only one thing missing: a baby. Asha, mother of two, lives in an impoverished Southern Indian Village and can barely maintain the roof over her head, let alone keep her children full. Driven to give a better life to her son and pushed by her husband, Asha volunteers her womb at the Happy Mothers House to give a baby to a childless couple overseas — who happen to be Priya and her husband. The two women are taken on an unforgettably heartwarming journey as they defy distance and cultural differences to bring a beautiful life into this world.   

2 /21: 'Accidental Soldier'

2/21 :'Accidental Soldier'

This poignant memoir reminds us that women truly do run the world. In one of the most refreshing perspectives of the year, duel American-Israeli citizen and author Dorit Sasson shares her experiences as a female soldier in the Israel Defense forces. In an effort to escape her neurotic mother (we can all relate to this), Sasson traded the college experience for the battlefield and learned the greatest lesson of all: how to survive on courage and the power of human faith.

3 /21: 'All Is Not Forgotten'

3/21 :'All Is Not Forgotten'

This psychological thriller is dripping in suspense and the darkest shades of family drama. The peaceful atmosphere of Fairview, Connecticut is forever disrupted when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a party. Devastated and traumatized, Jenny is given a new drug that will erase all memories of the attack; yet, she still struggles with excruciating emotional pain. Her father, Tom, embarks on the dangerous path of self-blame, frustrated that he can’t bring justice to the attacker while Jenny’s mother lives in denial and refuses to let the event touch their picture-perfect life. Tom and Charlotte’s fragile marriage worsens as they embark on a thrilling and unpredictable quest find the person who hurt their daughter — a monster who lurks closer to home than anyone imagined.

4 /21: 'Behold the Dreamers'

4/21 :'Behold the Dreamers'

This daring, fearless and fast-moving tale of one Cameroonian couple's dreams of building an American life captures the resilience of human faith in the shadow of the Great Recession. From beautiful dreams to harrowing realities of racial and economic divides, rarely does an author capture the journey of an immigrant building a life in America as eloquently and beautifully as Imbolo Mbue. This startling tale of one immigrant family's journey to gaining a foothold in the United States teases your perspective on what the American Dream was and what it is today.

5 /21: 'Clear To Lift'

5/21 :'Clear To Lift'

Set in the majestic mountains of Sierra Nevada, Anne Wilson’s Clear to Lift is a thrilling story of a woman’s self-discovery and journey to her heart’s true desires. Navy helicopter pilot Lt. Alison Malone does her job (and life) by the rules; spontaneity is not in her dictionary. Exhausted with her mission commander “Boomer” Marks, who doesn’t take her beloved military procedures seriously, she is pining to be transferred back to her life and fiancé back in San Diego. Fate has another plan when she meets adventurous pilot Will Cavanaugh, who dares Alison to see life in a more colorful and spontaneous light. A dangerous mission leaves Alison stranded on mountain during a blizzard. When Will comes to her rescue, Alison reexamines her entire life and realizes that maybe following the rules isn’t the formula for her happiness — but maybe it’s too late.  

6 /21: 'Conquest'

6/21 :'Conquest'

On the surface, up-and-coming novelist Jaime Boust (who was just awarded the David Carr Prize at SXSW in 2016) appears to be a women’s fiction author, but she is so much more than that. With Conquest, she delivers a smart and sexy novel from a feminist perspective as protagonist Brie Baggio embarks on her very own sexual conquest: by composing a sexual bucket list. It’s definitely a summer read to add to your reading list. 

7 /21: 'Don't You Cry'

7/21 :'Don't You Cry'

Written by the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica brings summer readers an unforgettable psychological thriller sure to intensify your beach time. Esther Vaughan mysteriously disappears from her downtown Chicago apartment, and the only clue left behind is a letter she addressed to "My Dearest," leaving her roommate Quinn Collins unsure if she knew her friend Esther at all. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Alex Gallo falls for mysterious women who show up at the quaint coffee shop where he works, a crush that soon evolves into a sinister relationship. Readers are taken on an unpredictable and tension-filled ride of of suspense and mystery as Quinn searches for answers. This electrifying rollercoaster of riddles and secrecy lead to an incredible conclusion that will haunt readers all summer long.

8 /21: 'Everybody Rise'

8/21 :'Everybody Rise'

This laugh-out-loud novel about the importance of being yourself is a must-read for every woman this summer. At 26 years old, sparkling and bright Evelyn Beegan never truly felt she fit into the circle of her upper-class peers. When she lands a job at an elite social network, she is immersed in an exclusive world of wealth, socialites and Wall Street’s finest. Despite feeling an outsider, Evelyn desperately tries to fit into the materialistic lifestyle of Manhattan’s most powerful, building a reputation for herself along the way based on lies. When her father is indicted for bribery, Evelyn is sent on a humiliating downward spiral of her family’s defeat and as she is forced to face the truth: You can't hide from yourself. 

9 /21: 'First Comes Love'

9/21 :'First Comes Love'

The No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed brings another dazzling summer read to our life; this time, an honest and unforgettable story of sisterhood. Josie and Meredith Garland were always opposites growing up, and when tragedy struck, life divided them and their bond remained delicate at best. Now living two drastically different lives in their late 30s — Josie still trying to find "the one" and Meredith unsatisfied with her seemingly perfect life — both begin to question their heart’s true desires. The anniversary of the tragedy approaches and both sisters are forced to face the secrets and painful memories which severed their relationship. In an enthrallingly emotional journey of understanding, happiness and forgiveness, First Comes Love is this year’s most powerful reminder to never give up on family.

10 /21: 'Homegoing'

10/21 :'Homegoing'

This emotionally explosive novel from debut author Yaa Gyasi is one of the most epic reading experiences of the year. This breathtaking tale is an incredible ode to the fateful forces that change the courses of nations, families and sisterhood forever. The story centers around two half-sisters Effia and Esi who are born in two different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Fate and unstoppable waves of historical events throw them down two drastically different paths. From the Civil War and exhilarating jazz clubs to the dark underworld of Harlem’s drug houses, this legendary story captures the soul of Ghana and its place in the ever-changing American landscape.  

11 /21: 'The House of Bradbury'

11/21 :'The House of Bradbury'

Feeling hopelessly defeated by the publishing world, debut author Mia Gladwell feels like her potential has reached a sad end. Her Hollywood producer fiancé ditches her in the wave of her misfortune and Mia finds herself unemployed, heartbroken and living with her sister. She then discovers the home of iconic author Ray Bradbury is up for sale and impulsively buys it, believing it will inspire her greatest literary masterpiece. Dealing with her annoying ex, her worried sister and her new pill-popping roommate, Mia’s life is in shambles until mysterious sketches appear on her new doorstep. Entangled in the mystery of discovering who is behind the strange series of drawings, Mia quickly learns that buying the Bradbury estate changed the course of her life forever 

12 /21: 'It's Not Okay'

12/21 :'It's Not Okay'

This one is for pop culture aficionados who are craving a more light-hearted summer read. Remember Andi Dorfman? She was star of ABC’s The Bachelorette, where she famously got engaged to Josh Murray (that didn’t work out) and was publically slut-shamed by her other ex, Nick. In this tell-all memoir, Dorfman shares what it’s like to be America’s most eligible woman and details the hilariously embarrassing aftermath of when finding love on national television backfires. Refreshing, uplifting and honest, Dorfman candidly reveals the downsides of finding love in front of America and the unexpected upsides and inner-strength she found along the way.

(Dorfman isn't the only celeb releasing a book this year, though. Keep an eye out for Anna Kendrick, Abbi Jacobson and more.)

13 /21: 'Memory of Us'

13/21 :'Memory of Us'

With a closet full of exquisite ball gowns and a line of prominent suitors hoping for her hand, Julianne Westcott was living every Protestant girl's fantasy in prewar Liverpool. Her picture-perfect life shatters when she discovers she has a blind-and-deaf brother who was institutionalized at birth. While Julianne dares secret visits to her brother, she meets and develops intense feelings for a charming Irish-Catholic groundskeeper on the path to priesthood. The forbidden courtship and intense love forces her to choose between the picturesque life she knows or to take the rocky, uncertain path her heart is begging her to do. War makes that decision for her. A horrific accident forces Julianne to start her life based on deception and lies. Twenty years later, the past finds its way back to her

14 /21: 'Multiple Choice'

14/21 :'Multiple Choice'

Our favorite exercise is literary exercise, and Multiple Choice is the greatest workout this summer. For readers itching for a unique reading experience, Chilean author Alejandro Zambra delivers a thought-provoking and emotionally challenging story in the form of a standardized test — yes, really. Zambra invites readers to complete various hilariously engaging exercises and along the way illuminates powerful messages of relationships, death and family. Truly a marvelous and entertaining literary experience, Multiple Choice is this summer's must-read.

15 /21: 'One True Loves'

15/21 :'One True Loves'

For those who devour novels about love triangles, this one is as messy as they get. Jesse is more than Emma's high school sweetheart and husband — he is her soulmate. They are just starting their life together when Jesse's helicopter tragically disappears over the Pacific Ocean. Emma is left to rebuild her dreams from nothing, but unexpectedly finds love again with an old friend. Now engaged and madly in love, she again sees the possibility of enduring happiness. That is until Jesse is found alive. With her love adrift and totally confused, Emma struggles to figure out which man she is destined to be with. Written by the author of summer hit Maybe in Another Life, which was named "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA Today, it appears Taylor Jenkins Reid is the reigning queen of summer reads.   

16 /21: 'Rich and Pretty'

16/21 :'Rich and Pretty'

In this stunning and honest debut novel, Alam illuminates the changes even the greatest childhood friendships face during the changing winds of adulthood. Set in contemporary New York, Sarah and Lauren have been inseparable since high school and maintained their rock-solid BFF status through all of life's major milestones — that is, until envy set in. Sarah is excitedly planning her wedding while independent Lauren would rather nurture her career over a man. Struggling to relate to one another or even share secrets, can they live separate lives and still be best friends? With endless amounts of wit and stylish insight, Alam beautifully explores if their friendship can survive adulthood's adversities.   

17 /21: 'So Close'

17/21 :'So Close'

There are two types of men in the world: those who make life better and those who threaten to destroy it. Amanda Beth Luker has both. International best-selling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus deliver a dramatic coming-of-age story about a girl who escaped Florida trailer parks against all odds. Amanda's dreams of escaping her poor means were only fantasies until successful lawyer Tom Davis and his ambitious wife, Lindsay, changed the course of her life forever. She later meets dreamy and dark Pax Westerbrook, whose undeniable desire for Amanda could derail her from the life she always dreamed of. Meanwhile, Tom is on the fast track to the White House but Amanda makes a shocking discovery on his indiscretions, which tests her loyalty and jeopardizes everything — and everyone — she gained.

18 /21: 'The Choices We Make'

18/21 :'The Choices We Make'

In this tale about the complexities of parenthood and relationships, The Choices We Make is an honest story of the enduring bond of friendship. Hannah and Kate have been friends with a sister-like bond since fifth grade. Now adults, Hannah is longing for the perfect family Kate has created. After years of trying, Hannah and her husband, Ben, are delivered with devastating news: They may never get pregnant. Hannah is heartbroken until Kate not only volunteers to be a surrogate, but also offers her own eggs to restore Hannah’s dreams of motherhood. Renewed with a sense hope and excitement, both families venture down the path of parenthood together. When an unthinkable tragedy strikes, their seemingly unbreakable friendship begins to fall apart and both women must face the risks they are — and aren't willing — to take.

19 /21: 'Tracing the Bones'

19/21 :'Tracing the Bones'

With a failing writing career and haunting memories of her husband's affair, pessimistic Eve Myer is skeptical if she’ll ever feel happy again. Her cynical outlook changes when a new family — Anna, Billy and their small son — moves in next door. Her cynicism quickly turns to lusty obsession when she begins alternative healing sessions with Billy, creating more mistrust and resentment in her own marriage. A horrific tragedy strikes Anna and her son as Eve's relationship with Billy intensifies, threatening Eve's relationship with her family forever. Her healing sessions take an experimental turn and Eve is forced to face the dreadful reason behind Anna’s mysterious death.  

20 /21: 'Will You Won't You Want Me?'

20/21 :'Will You Won't You Want Me?'

It's never a dull affair when a past love interest from high school knocks on your door. Marjorie Plum was the social queen of her graduating class, but nearly a decade later and saturated in the corporate world, she feels defeated and uninspired by life. Fate surprises her when her teenage crush appears from that past and her grumpy boss at her new job makes unexpected advances. She’s now at her professional and personal crossroads. With the help of a small circle of advisers, including an 11-year-old and her spiritual musician roommate, Marjorie revisits her past and asks herself the ultimate question: Who does she want to be?

21 /21: 'You Will Know Me'

21/21 :'You Will Know Me'

Adoring parents Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their marriage and life to their 15-year-old daughter Devon, an incredible gymnast with unbeatable talent. Their aspirations for their daughter are derailed when a horrific death shakes the gymnastics community and Devon’s future is suddenly at risk. The hidden and dramatic underworld of gymnastic competitions is revealed as rumors swirl and secret plots are illuminated among other parents. Readers are taken on a nerve-wracking journey as Katie falls into the dark allure of crime, frantically trying to hold her marriage and family together while securing her daughter’s uncertain future.